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Esperon willing to testify in ‘Hello Garci’ after retirement

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 18:53:00 04/23/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said he is willing to testify at legislative inquiries into the so-called “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal after he retires, but only if the proceedings are “reasonable.”

Esperon, who will retire May 9, was linked to the alleged cheating operations in the 2004 elections after his name was mentioned in purported wiretapped conversations of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and ex-elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, after whom the controversy was named.

He is the last of four generals mentioned in the tape to retire from the military service.

“If I will be called to a hearing, I would attend it if I find it reasonable, meaning I would be advised on what questions will be asked so that I could also be prepared,” he told a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo.

“If it is a democratic process, then I will go for it. We have always upheld the democratic processes, the rule of law,” he said.

In the so-called “Hello Garci” tapes, it was implied that Esperon had a hand in the relief of Brigadier General Francisco Gudani as chief of the 1st Marine Brigade in Marawi City, for allegedly supporting Arroyo’s chief rival, movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., who died seven months after the bitterly contested elections.

Maintaining his innocence, Esperon said that as deputy chief of staff for operations during the 2004 election period, he had no power to relieve Gudani.

Esperon spoke to reporters during a break from a command conference in Camp Aguinaldo. Among the attendees was Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Balutan, Gudani’s former battalion commander.

Gudani and Balutan testified before a Senate investigation into the alleged cheating operations in September 2005. They were investigated for possible court martial for testifying without permission from the military leadership.

As Esperon answered questions on the “Hello Garci” controversy, Balutan was seen smiling before he drank water from a glass.

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Written by joelguinto

Wed+00:002008-04-23T11:05:44+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Wed, 23 Apr 2008 11:05:44 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

Posted in Uncategorized

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